The August AMA Waterways Danube Discovery cruise aboard AmaLyra was underwhelming even though AMA Waterways is supposed to provide a higher end experience than its competition.
The AmaLyra was built in 2009 & therefore does not have all the "bells & whistles” of more modern ships (e.g. it has French balconies which allow passengers to open a sliding door to the outside but not a true balcony which permits passengers to actually sit outside on a balcony). It carries fewer passengers (ca. 143) than most (ca. 160-190) of its competition.
Cabins: Although there was plenty of closet & drawer space, mid priced cabin floor space felt somewhat cramped. The bathroom was remarkably spacious with a modern fully enclosed shower. Linens were high end. The bed was uncomfortably hard even with two duvets used for cushioning. There was good climate control & soundproofing. The TV, which provided entertainment & information, was small, ornery & navigation was not user friendly. The free internet/Wi-Fi in one’s room, & throughout the ship, was, to be kind, not state of the art. Capturing & maintaining a usable signal was frustratingly slow and not as reliable as it should have been even while docked in a reasonable large port city where one would have expected a better signal. And, at speeds of 9 mph the ship doesn’t cover huge swaths of geography that might account for such problems.
River cruise ships often do not have their own berth in port. In nearly every port, 2-3 ships from the same cruise line tied up to one another. When nested in this manner, one had to walk across one or more ships in order to get to your ship. Depending upon where your ship is docked in the nest (outside or inside), cabins of different ships are across and within a few feet of one another privacy concerns requiring closed curtains and therefore no view and limited natural light.
Public Space: When relaxing on deck was undesirable (too dark or weather issues), there was little interior quiet space. Other than a multi-purpose lounge (bar, entertainment, dance space &/or lecture hall), the one interior space that could have been used for reading was also used for games and socializing as well as adjoining a tiny fitness area with an extremely noisy fitness machine. Too often one’s cabin was the only place for quiet space. At those times, a true balcony was missed.
Dining: Everyone was required to eat at the same time. Seating was comfortable and tables were well spaced. One did not have the feeling of being crowded as friends have described on other river cruise lines. Menu choices were much more limited than on ocean cruising. Food was generally mediocre with occasional flashes of "good.” We found at least one of the meal time wine offerings was good. Bar prices were on the high side. After some just adequate service, we discovered, & stayed with a waiter, who was excellent. Although tips were pooled, passengers were advised that it was acceptable to tip additionally. Waiters (and cabin attendants) understood what was required & behaved appropriately.
With one or two exceptions, the entertainment brought onboard was forgettable. Unfortunately, the one man keyboard/vocalist who was supposed to provide in house music for dancing and general entertainment was musically challenged in addition to having some language issues.
Ports: The slow pace of river cruising (about 9 mph) means that not much distance is covered in a 24 hour period. The ports are relatively close together and notwithstanding significant differences among them, one has a greater sense of homogeneity (architecture, food, general culture) compared to ocean cruising where ports are generally much farther apart exposing one to much greater diversity.
Tours: Free bus or walking tours gave an overview of each port. The bus tours were mostly drive-by’s. Tour guides were knowledgable with lots of esoteric commentary & forgettable detail. Optional tours were limited and marginally interesting.